Struggling against the Tithe

One of my goals in our Be, Do and Have More Challenge is to grow my faith. I’m making progress in this area and this week marks my second consecutive month of giving the first 10% of our income to our church rather than whatever is left at the end of the month.

I really love Jon Acuff ‘s four part video series  directed at high school kids  (what does that say about the maturity of my faith?) In one of these videos, Jon talks about how in high school he didn’t feel he needed God in a lot of areas of his life. I get that; for a long time I thought I didn’t need or want God in my business life or my money life or even in my relationships. In my old way of thinking, God is who you call on when it looks like things are gonna go to crap, when someone you care about is about to be hurt or death is knocking at your door. Back then, I thought I just don’t need God day to day.

My faith has grown from that pinhead sized faith in the past couple of years but I still have a long way to go.

One of the struggles I’ve had along the way was with the tithe. I knew that some Christians with a church home regularly give 10% of their gross income to the church but I didn’t know very many of these people. When I started doing financial coaching, I met several of them. Some of them have great income, some not so much. Often that 10% looked to me like money that would be better used paying down debt. I struggled to understand how some of these families, who had very little disposable income, could happily give away the first 10%.

On one hand, I think many people have been bullied into tithing by pastors that promise a curse if they don’t or a reward if they do. That kind of thinking does not fit with my understanding of grace and I want no part of it. On the other hand, winning with your money is all about learning some self-discipline and a tithe or at least a regular scheduled donation is an excellent place for many people to practice some discipline with their money.

When I would hear “give God 10%”, my immediate thought is God doesn’t need my money and besides I understand who deposits this check and it sure isn’t God. I now hear it as “give 10% for God’s work” even if the pastor fails to say it that way.

I’ve always preferred to do my giving as directly as possible. I would rather buy a kid a book then donate to a reading foundation. I feel better knowing exactly how my money is spent. If I give the church (not God) 10% of my money, how do I know that they are spending it responsibly? The answer to this is I don’t. I have finally figured out, it’s up to me to choose a church I trust and then demonstrate that trust with my time and my money. That, to me, is the difference between being the church that I attend and being my church.

It’s taken me a while to really get that the tithe (or regular giving) isn’t for God or the Church, it’s for me. It reminds me of my commitments, it helps me become an unselfish person and it makes me a contributing member of our church family.

Nail your Shoes to the Floor-Week 4 of the Be, Do and Have More Challenge

I have really struggled this week with one of my goals. I told you last week despite lots of activity, I have made no forward progress on my get my life uncomplicated goal. With great optimism, I announced it was time to back up and try a new approach. I’m here to report this week that optimism is over-rated. I did try a new approach and again I hit a brick wall. So, I did what I always do next for this particular problem. I spent a great deal of energy convincing myself that it really isn’t worth it. I assured myself that the probable result of any continued effort would be to make things worse. I decided to just leave it alone.

Have you ever done this? You decide what you want and then six steps into the walk you wimp out. Not only do you wimp out, you have 54 great reasons why quitting is the only smart thing to do.

Fortunately, as I was constructing my list of great reasons for quitting,  I went back to the beginning of our workbook.  Remember how we carefully explored why we wanted to achieve this goal?  When I first chose this goal, I told you, It has often stood between who I am and who I want to be. And yet, here I am ready to give it up.  On further reflection, I will turn back around and try again.

So what made me want to run? The same thing that makes you run: fear. Fear of confrontation, fear of the unknown, fear of being misunderstood, and finally fear of rejection.

Many of us have been taught to avoid confrontation at all costs. We refuse to confront the people, problems or situations that are holding us back.  Like Phineas J. Whoopee, from the cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo, we keep stuffing our problems into our already overflowing closet and slamming the door.

A confrontation doesn’t have to mean a fight; it should not be something you categorically avoid and it is often necessary in order to step forward.

Many people work very hard to avoid listing their debts or accounting for their spending. We know we have a problem but we are afraid to measure it. So, we stuff it in the closet and slam the door shut.

The unknown scares us. We can see the ship is going down, but at least it’s familiar. Jumping into that little lifeboat scares us. So we turn our backs and ignore the situation.

Sometimes what scares us is our own possible reaction. I like to think that I am very slow to real anger, but once I get there, I have a hard time reeling it back in. Like the time some slimy guy tried to jerk my newly widowed mother around in a real estate deal. Had my sister not been there to pull me off, that guy’s head might have ended up skewered on the For Sale sign.

It’s OK to be scared, but it’s not OK to run. If you continue to flat out ignore the problem, you’re running. If you acknowledge the problems in your life, but blame them on circumstance or others, you’re running. Turn around, throw open the closet door and let all that stuff spill out. Confront the problem now, today or run live in the desert for 40 years; it’s OK the problem will wait for you.

Week 3 UPDATE – Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge

When we started our Pick Four Goal Challenge, we said writing down our efforts every day and reviewing them once a week would be how we ensure progress. So, here is my weekly review.

This past week:

Lose 12 lbs goal – Yippee! Progress. After my friend called me on not scheduling my workout for first thing in the morning, I have successfully completed every one of my scheduled runs. That doesn’t by itself lead to losing 12 lbs. but it’s a definite start down the right path.

Get my life uncomplicated goal – Lots of churning here but no forward progress. The good thing about  recording my efforts each day is that it is very clear that what I’m doing here isn’t working. Time to back up and try a new approach.

I am making progress on my grow my faith goal even though I haven’t devoted a lot of time to it. Just having this in front of me everyday has been enough to cause me to question my actions and motivation.

Finally, I have located and started a course to help me learn to attract and serve the clients I need to have a sustainable coaching business. So far, so good.

How was your week?